What if we never “had” to eat food anymore, and just had to swallow a pill in order to get all of our nutrients? I once had a four-hour conversation with a stranger on a plane about this. He worked for a pharmaceutical company, and I, well….didn’t (and still don’t). “What about the emotional value of food? The comfort? The joy? The delight in it?” He smiled, as if my comment was “cute” and “na├»ve.”

He was also in his late thirties, charmingly Irish, and fun to converse with – but totally detached and unhappy with life. “Um. Hellooo, because you can’t even appreciate the sentimental value of something so precious as food,” I thought. We argued, sitting side-by-side, all the way to Chicago. We just agreed to disagree, smiled and moved on to our next connection.

I then ran into an article promoting Soylent: a soy-based drink that provides you with all of the calories, vitamins and minerals you need to survive. The guy who invented it has been living on it for two years and is in great health, they say. WHAT IS HAPPENING? I want to scream that sometimes. Especially when people feel like the value of a meal is worthless. Sad.

But then there is the question of when climate change drastically hits more places, places that grow food. And what about the rise in population – how will we eventually feed all people when weather, temperature, soil composition, etc. is becoming more and more unpredictable and destructive? We can’t even distribute all of the food we are already able to grow on the planet to everyone. Is something like a once-a-day “food pill” or a “food replacement beverage” a good solution to that? Shouldn’t we be working on food distribution efficiency first instead of just coming up with a replacement? It feels to me like we’re running away from the problem instead of trying to solve it.

Besides the biological importance of food, the emotional aspect of it is very closely tied to our mental wellbeing, wouldn’t you say? How many times have you just craved a some ratatouille, or mac n cheese, or even a salad (oh, and then there’s chocolate…)? There’s a deep comfort found in food. More so, sharing meals is so key to many various cultures; it brings family, friends and strangers together. Certain dishes define cultures, as well as certain families and people in them.

Think about Thanksgiving: everyone sitting around a table saying what they’re grateful for, then just swallowing a pill together and finito, we feel “stuffed.” Something freaky just crossed my mind; what if the “food pill” was able to make you feel certain emotions and sensations linked to food as well as just giving you nutritional value? For instance, you could choose a pill based on if it gave you a “home cooked” feeling, or a “light ‘n fresh” feeling, or “food coma” sensation…strange. We choose these traits of our food anyways, so would it make a difference if we simply had to pick it out in a pill?

I listened to what the Irishman had to say for the duration of the flight, and in the end, it really just came down to money. I mean, it was his job to promote this stuff. But in order to convincingly sell it, you have to believe in it. When money and mind get mixed into motivation, I get suspicious of the product. Yes, I realize this means about 75% of inventions.

A lot of things proposed as the “future world” scare me. The whole hologram deal freaks me out, the less we have to talk face-to-face with people makes me upset, and the idea of 24/7 virtual-world glasses gives me chills. So, inherently, food replacements such as pills or daily shakes make my skin crawl, for they are part of this cold, cut world we see as our future. It makes me sad.

So, what to do about it? Keep growing food, no? Support local farmers (on a local and national level), keep passing on the tradition of cooking to people, keep going out to restaurants, keep discovering ways to better distribute food, keep learning things from strangers on airplanes…who knows.

"Would you like some peanuts, sir?"

Charlotte Hacke
BMSP Volunteer Fall 2014


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